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JFK Act - 20 Years After - Playing Politics with History

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Playing Politics with History – the Still Secret JFK Assassination Records

By William E. Kelly


You may think the November 22, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy is ancient history, but as we approach the 50th anniversary of the murder of the president, there are still people who physically oppose the idea of the full truth being known today.

To some high level US government officials, the assassination is still a matter of national security and many thousands of historical records about the case of the murdered president are so sensitive that they won’t allow you to read them now – nearly a half-century after Kennedy was killed.

Not a few, there are so many they can’t even tell you how many documents are still sealed or how many pages of documents are still being withheld, and they’re not going to count them until they are required to do so. And no one is requiring them because the laws are being ignored.

Despite the JFK Act of 1992, which caused the release of nearly five million pages of once-secret JFK assassination records, the NARA estimates that one percent of the records remain sealed, which would mean there are still an estimated 50,000 still-secret records.

Just among the CIA records alone, there are over 1,000 documents that were identified by the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB), a temporary agency created by the JFK Act, that are currently locked in a sealed vault at the Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland. They are scheduled to be released to the public in 2017, but can be and are expected to remain sealed indefinitely at the request of the CIA.

According to some reports, the CIA has already identified the documents that they intend to ask the President to postpone beyond 2017.

So the Kennedy assassination isn’t ancient history, at least to these high level government administrators who consider it so relevant, so important, so significant today that these records, if released to the public, will threaten the nation’s security and very foundations of the government.

And this continued secrecy flies in the face of the JFK Act, enacted 20 years ago – October 1992, and the current policies espoused by the administration today.

One of the first things that President Obama did once assuming office was to declare a policy of “open government,” saying that “no record shall be withheld indefinitely.” He issued an executive order creating the National Declassification Center (NDC) to expedite the declassification and release of a backlog of over 4 million pages of documents by 2013, which they initially said at the first NDC public hearing, included the remaining sealed JKF assassination records.

Including the remaining sealed JFK assassination records in this program would be consistent with their espoused policy of giving priority to records of high public interest, and it would be fitting to have these records declassified by 2013, the 50th anniversary of the event.

At the second public hearing a year later however, after (Kurtz) the assistant archivist who had initially said the JFK assassination records were included had retired, the NARA announced that he “misspoke” and the remaining sealed JFK assassination records were not going to be included in the NDC project.

It would be nice to know if Kurtz, the assistant archivist with over 20 years as an archivist, who said the JFK records were included in the NDC program was fired or forced to retire because of having “misspoke” about the inclusion of the JFK records?

Then Jim Lesar, the president of the Assassinations Archives and Research Center (AARC), wrote a letter the Archivist requesting that the NARA reconsider its decision not to include the JFK assassination records in the 2013 NDC program, but was rebuffed by a letter from the chief counsel to the NARA. He claimed that the NARA asked the CIA if they could accelerate the declassification of these records and the CIA said they could not, even though they did declassify and release all of the records scheduled for release in 2010 in 2006, exactly what they are requested to do now. So they can do it if they wanted to.

The clear, cold and confirming refusal of NARA to seriously consider the declassification and release of the remaining withheld JFK assassination records led to the posting of a petition at Change.org, which now has nearly 2,000 signatures, calling on the Archivist and the President’s chief information officer to release these records [ x ].

At the third open public hearing of the NDC Jim Lesar asked the CIA representative to the President’s National Declassification Center how long it would take them to declassify the remaining records and the answer was two months. But at this point they’re not even interested in counting them.

Three of the six questions posed by the public concerned the JFK assassination records, but when the NARA posted the official videotape of the third 2012 NDC open public hearing, the tape freezes just as the public question and comment session begins, and it appears that the recording machine was turned off, which certainly indicates they were not even interested in what the public had to say.

When one administration official at the NDC hearings was asked about the sealed JFK assassination records, he tried to dismiss the issue by relating them to those seeking UFO records, but Jim Lesar interrupted him to point out that not one member of the public at that hearing mentioned UFOs except him, and that the murder of the President was not a easily dismissed joke but a national security issue of the greatest importance.

Since the belligerent attitude of the NARA administrators must reflect that of the Archivist himself, Paul Kuntsler decided to write him and open letter and to get their attention he held a protest at the National Archives on October 8, Columbus Day. Joined by a few other researchers, they wore “Free the JFK Files” signs and distributed copies of Kuntsler’s open letter, including one to a mid-level NARA official who came out to meet them. Copies of the letters they had left over were sent to national news papers, radio and media outlets, none of which bothered to report or cover the event or publish the letter. [ Kuntsler’s letter: x ]

One of the historical researchers who attended the demonstration was Jefferson Morley, former Washington Post reporter and author of “Our Man in Mexico.”

Not among the CIA records at the NARA’s JFK Collection are the files and records of former CIA officer George Joannides, whose death has not softened the CIA’s refusal to release his records or include them in the JFK Act even though Joannides’ was the CIA officer responsible for the anti-Castro Cuban Student Revolutionary Directore (DRE), an anti-Castro Cuban organization the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald tried to infiltrate a few months before he allegedly killed the president.

Detailing the relationship between the DRE and the accused assassin would go a long way in determining whether the assassination was the act of a lone, deranged nut case or a well planned and executed covert intelligence operation designed to shield those actually responsible.

Since the Joannides records were “not considered relevant” to the assassination of the President and not included as part of the JFK Act records, Jim Lesar, at the behest of Jefferson Morley, filed a FOIA suit to get them, a case that the CIA has dragged through the appeals courts for many years now.

While one could speculate that if the records supported the government’s official lone-gunman, lone-nut determination regarding the assassination, then they would have no qualms about releasing them, but instead they contend they must remain sealed for reasons of national security.

Among the records that the CIA has released because of the court case are even more surprising, as they show that besides running the (DRE) Cuban group that had run ins with the accused assassin, Joannides was given a special CIA assignment in 1978, to serve as CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), when he obstructed the committee’s access to many of the CIA records they sought on a number of issues related to the assassination.

The former second chief counsel to the committee, G. Robert Blakey, now a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, said that if he knew Joannides had been the case officer responsible for the DRE he would have had him testify under oath.

Instead, Joannides kept the HSCA from obtaining the records and information they wanted and needed about the Cubans and the accused assassin.

It is not only the CIA who gets its way with NARA, the Secret Service destroyed records that were requested by the ARRB after the JFK Act was enacted, the Office of Naval Intelligence claims that it can find no relevant assassination records whatsoever from among the files of its director, ever though many such relevant ONI records have been found among the records of other agencies, and the WHCA refuses to even acknowledge the existence of the original, unedited Air Force One radio transmission tapes.

It is the responsibility of the NARA to enforce the JFK Act, which they have failed to do, and it is the responsibility of Congress to oversee the law, which they refuse to do, as they have not held an oversight hearing on the issue in over fifteen years.

Former Assassinations Records Review Board member Kermit Hall once said that it would take ten years before the JFK Act and the work of the ARRB could be adequately evaluated, well now it has been twenty years and we know that records have been intentionally destroyed, gone totally missing and are being wrongfully withheld, without any enforcement or oversight of the law.

We have written, faxed and emailed letters, asked appropriate questions at public hearings, signed petitions and protested with pickets and flyers seeking what most American citizens want and support – the full release of the records, yet the most significant documents remain sealed and the agency administrators do not even acknowledge our requests.

Their intransigence, their blatant destruction of records, their refusal to include the JFK records as part of the NDC program, their refusal to enforce the JFK Act or the President’s Executive Order, their refusal to hold mandated Congressional oversight hearings and their refusal to release the relevant records now is playing politics with history, our history, our records, and we must hold them accountable for their actions.

Friday, October 26 is the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the JFK Act, one of the most significant pieces of legislation in history, and I call on you and everyone interested in the truth about the assassination and our mutual history to take action, any action – write a letter to the Archivist, your congressman or the President, make a phone call, post on a government web page or internet forum, sign the petition or get some friends to sign it, but do something that will help make and issue of open government in general and the JFK assassination records in particular.

At one time JFK assassination records may have been reasonably withheld for reasons of national security, but now, fifty years after the assassination and twenty years after the enactment of the JFK Act, it is a matter of national security to release them.

In February 1962, on the twentieth anniversary of the Voice of America, President Kennedy said, “We seek a free flow of information…We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

The US government today is afraid of its people, afraid to enforce its own laws and afraid to allow its people know the complete truth about the assassination of President Kennedy.

Now, twenty years after the enactment of the JFK Act, it is time to do something about it.

Petition | Free the JFK Files | Change.org

JFKcountercoup: Open Letter to Ferriero

JFKcountercoup: View the third NDC Open Public Forum

JFKCountercoup2: WHY Congress Oversight Is Needed


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